Ultra-fast eLectronics for Terahertz Rapid Analysis in compact lab-on-chip applications
Duration: 42 months
Abstract: In Medicine and Biology a fast, low cost and accurate analysis of samples, such as cancerous tissues or bio-molecules, is of crucial importance for the life of the patient as well as the reduction of hospital and laboratory costs. Nowadays, several medical instruments making use of different regions of the electromagnetic spectrum are available to carry out analysis of samples, but often these techniques do not reveal all the information required for efficient diagnostic or therapeutic use. Also the size, complexity and cost of those instruments remain very high. Moreover, not all regions of the electromagnetic spectrum are currently used and new, unexplored regions offer the possibility of greatly enhancing analytic capabilities beyond what is possible today. The aim of the ULTRA project is to devise two new instruments with application in medical, biological and chemical analysis and detection. Both new instruments will be low cost, reliable, with low power consumption and with very compact form factor by virtue of their lab-on-chip construction. They will be suitable for applications not currently covered by other instruments. They will be based on the use of terahertz radiation which is the last untapped region of the electromagnetic spectrum and which has demonstrated a high potential for cancerous tissue detection and for label-free biomolecular sensing. One of the two instruments will in addition exploit plasmonics to achieve unprecedented sensitivity for biochemical detection in the THz frequency range. The development of such complex and completely new instruments requires competences in several different areas, ranging from integrated-circuit design to packaging, including electromagnetism, labon- chip microsystems and biosensors. These competences are currently available only at European level and the coordinated effort of different groups, all leaders in their fields, is necessary to successfully tackle the problem. The innovative content of the proposal resides in the combination of three emerging fields, namely “plasmonics”, “THz technology” and “microsystem integration” and in the creation of completely new, integrated THz and plasmonics components. Some research institutes in the United States are actively working on single parts of the whole system this project aims to construct, but it appears from the published results that their focus is still far from a single fully integrated system combining integrated circuit technology, nonlinear transmission lines and plasmonics. Europe, and in particular this consortium, has a leading position in the field of THz, integration technology and THz plasmonics and is therefore the ideal working group to successfully face this challenge.